Friday, November 05, 2010

Lean Safety

Can you kaizen a process making productivity gains without using a stopwatch?

Most of us practice and teach the value of data driven improvements however there are ways of getting the same results without clicking a stopwatch. One such kaizen approach is described by Robert Hafey in his book Lean Safety: Transforming your Safety Culture with Lean Management.

While leading a kaizen event, Bob directed the team to leave their stopwatches in their kaizen toolboxes and use direct observation of the process with an eye towards safety. More specifically, the team was trained to look for only four conditions in Gemba: Out of Neutral, Excessive Weight, Straining, and Repetitive Tasks.

Out of Neutral: A condition when one of our body parts are out of the neutral position while performing a work task, i.e. when our arms go above our shoulder, our shoulder joint is out of neutral.

Excessive Weight: When someone moves or lifts a heavy object.

Straining: When someone strains to exert physical force to an object.

Repetitive Tasks: Anytime someone is asked to repeat short duration tasks repetitively.

As the team took note of each occurrence, they brainstormed ways to eliminate the condition. For instance, if they observed the operator lifting a heavy object, they did not reinforce the proper lifting techniques. Instead, they looked for ways to eliminate the need to lift in the first place.

After implementation of these improvements, the job was easier and better which led to productivity gains. The interesting result was the natural evolution from a batch process to one piece flow based on improvement of these ergonomic elements.

Sounds like a simple and focused way to make a job easier and better looking at muri (overburden) versus our traditional viewpoint of always looking for muda (waste)!

In Lean Safety, many of the lean tools like A3, 5S, standard work, poka-yoke, 5 Whys and process mapping are adapted towards improving safety. The tools are not new however the applications towards safety give us a different take in using our lean tools. In addition, Bob has provided many examples and real life experiences from facilitating lean safety kaizen events. Overall, this is a very good book written in an easy to read format with a passion for safety that all lean practitioners can learn from.

For more information on Lean Safety, Bob has a new blog site called Lean Safety which he started posting his thoughts and ideas on continuous improvement focused on safety.

Welcome Bob to the blogging community! And as Bob says. “You can continuously cope or you can continuously improve, the choice is yours.”

Monday, November 01, 2010

Driving Lean Across the Organization

One of the more unfortunate expressions, in my opinion, found in the lean community is “driving lean across the organization”. I hear and see this all the time. It can be found in lean books, articles, job postings, job descriptions, reviews, etc. “I want someone who can drive lean across the organization” or “To drive lean across the company, we need …..”

What comes to your mind when you hear the expression “driving lean across the organization”? How would you drive lean across the organization?

Is this what we really need to do to move towards being a lean company? Can we sustain efforts if we drive them? What happens if the driver leaves the company? What about respect for people or engaging the employees?

As a lean leader (both internal and external), I have been asked in the past to “drive” lean across the company. Having someone, especially an outside consultant, tasked with driving lean is not the best way to become lean. Sure, you most certainly will get some fast results but it will not be sustained and it may cause more damage to the organization than the gains you achieved.

To begin changing our lean culture, instead of using the term “driving”, can we choose better words to reflect a better approach? How about leading the way, guiding, teaching or setting the example?

Now, how would you lead the way? How would you set the example of the lean approach within your organization? Would your course of action be different than if you drive lean?

(photo credit: AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)